The Implications of Psychological Limitations for the Ethics of Climate Change

Environmental Values 25 (3):353-370 (2016)

T. J. Kasperbauer
Indiana University
Most philosophers and psychologists who have explored the psychology of climate change have focused only on motivational issues—getting people to act on what morality requires of them. This is misleading, however, because there are other psychological processes directed not at motivation but rather our ability to grasp the implications of climate change in a general way—what Stephen Gardiner has called the ‘grasping problem’. Taking the grasping problem as my departure point, I draw two conclusions from the relevant psychological literature: 1) ethicists and policy makers should focus less on changing individuals’ behaviors and more on changing policy; and 2) even though solutions to climate change must come at the level of policy, progress on this front will be limited by incompatible moral norms.
Keywords Climate ethics  Climate change  Moral psychology  Jonathan Haidt  Moral Foundations
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DOI 10.3197/096327116x14598445991547
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